Albert Lea’s playoff run ends in title game

Published 8:36 pm Thursday, June 4, 2015

Parker Boyum of Albert Lea waits for the throw from catcher Chris Enderson Thursday against Glencoe-Silver Lake in the Section 2AA championship Thursday at St. Peter. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Parker Boyum of Albert Lea waits for the throw from catcher Chris Enderson Thursday against Glencoe-Silver Lake in the Section 2AA championship Thursday at St. Peter. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea falls to Glencoe-Silver Lake, wins 14 games on the season

ST. PETER — Despite tying its second-highest win total in the last decade, the Albert Lea baseball team finished its season with four playoff victories and a 14-12 record.

Glencoe-Silver Lake used a bases-loaded double play to capture the momentum in the fourth inning and advance past the Tigers 5-3 Thursday in the Section 2AA championship at St. Peter.

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“We had a rally going, but (Glencoe-Silver Lake) made a nice play to get out of it,” said Albert Lea coach Joe Sczublewski. “It’s kind of disappointing to lose the last game, but you look back on it, and the kids played really well and showed a lot of heart, a lot of desire and a never-give-up attitude.”

Both teams had six hits. Alex Bledsoe and Parker Boyum led the Tigers with two each.

Tyler Steele took the loss on the mound in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out one batter and gave up four hits and four earned runs. Tristin Muilenburg pitched the last 2 1/3 innings and held the Panthers to one earned run.

“Tristin came in and really shut them down after Steele pitched well for three innings,” Sczublewski said.

The Tigers broke the ice in the top of the second when a double down the third-base line by Tanner Bellrichard scored Boyum.

Glencoe-Silver Lake answered in the bottom of the inning by loading the bases with no outs and stealing home twice on wild pitches. Steele regained his composure with a strikeout and Albert Lea escaped the inning with a pair of flyouts.

In the third, the Tigers built their first lead. Bledsoe hit a lead-off single and scored the equalizer on a groundout by Chris Enderson. Mason Hammer gave Albert Lea a 3-2 advantage on a line drive down the third-base line by Boyum.

After Steele and the Tigers’ defense took the Panthers down in order in the bottom of the third, Albert Lea was unable to extend its lead with the bases loaded in the top of the fourth.

Glencoe-Silver Lake scored the last three runs of the game and held the Tigers scoreless in the last four innings.

Albert Lea had four seniors on its final roster: Enderson, Steele, Muilenburg and Kole Smith.

“My favorite memories are Chris’ walk-off on my birthday, and just playing in the tournament with these guys,” said Smith. “It was a good year, and we came back as much as we could. We just couldn’t do it today.”

Enderson’s game-winning home run was against Mankato East on May 7 at Hayek Field in Albert Lea. The Tigers trailed 7-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning before Enderson’s shot capped a six-run rally.

Albert Lea’s best stretch of the season was from April 22 to May 7, when the Tigers won seven of eight games, including five against opponents from the Big Nine Conference.

The team’s longest winning streak was five games, which included the last two matchups of the regular season and the first three of the postseason. During that stretch, Albert Lea outscored its opponents 51-17.

For the second consecutive season, the Tigers were eliminated by Glencoe-Silver Lake in the first of two potential games that make up the section title. Since the playoffs are double elimination, the team from the consolation bracket is required to beat the team from the championship bracket twice to advance to state. A second game wasn’t required because Albert Lea lost the first game.

Although the Tigers fell against the Panthers in the same situation last year, Albert Lea was confident before the opening pitch.

“Going into the game, we thought we were capable of beating them twice,” Sczublewski said.

After gaining experience from a combined 12 postseason games in the last two seasons, Sczublewski said the program’s future is bright.

“A lot of young kids are looking forward to a big season of summer ball, and next year we’ve got quite a few sophomores who are two-year starters who will be back.”

Summer ball with the Albert Lea Legion Post 56 team will start at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Austin.